There are large data gaps in the knowledge of monarch absence/presence in portions of the western United States especially Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and the deserts of California. The Southwest Monarch Study (SWMS) has developed a successful model for tagging and monitoring monarch butterfly activity leading to a publication, “Status of Danaus plexippus in Arizona” by Morris et al. (2015), providing an overview of monarch activity in the state. A recent recovery of a monarch tagged in Camp Verde near Flagstaff, Arizona in El Rosario, Michoacan, Mexico is reflective of the urgent need to better understand the western migration. This project previously offered monarch education opportunities through week-long tours through Utah, New Mexico and the southeast deserts of California to expand monarch conservation and research. Cities that are a part of this tour will be offered a two to three hour worskhop on monarch conservation and monitoring. SWMS has created a successful Citizen Science model to engage people of all ages in monitoring, tagging and monarch conservation. This summer, they will extend their training workshops to areas not previously covered to gather more data in these important and not well understood areas of the monarch’s range.
Morris et al. (2015) also reported sightings of small monarch clusters observed in trees near the Colorado River along the Arizona–California border near Parker and Lake Havasu City in late October and early November. Monarchs were found in small numbers at these locations during the winter months. One monarch tagged in Lake Havasu was found four months later nearby indicating an overwintering population. The lower Colorado River appears to be a primary monarch flyway as well as a host of small aggregations of overwintering monarchs each year. Asclepias subulata, A. albicans and A. erosa are found in nearby locations. Training events to educate citizen scientists and government employees in monitoring protocols along the Colorado River in Arizona were conducted to better understand monarch biology and ecology in this unique area.
Morris GM, Kline C, Morris SM. 2015. Status of Danaus Plexippus Population in Arizona. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 69: 91-107.